Understanding the genetic link in suicide--my dad's story

When I was 13 years old, I was abruptly taken to my grandma’s apartment with no explanation. I stayed there about five days and then my mom picked me up and took me home. Nothing was ever said for nearly 40 years about those five days until one day in 2003 when my mom abruptly told me the “rest of the story” as I drove her to one of her countless medical appointments.

My dad was an alcoholic. In 1966 he was about to lose his dream job with the Postal Service because he showed up to work drunk, called off when he had a hangover and did not do his job right much of the time. He was called into his supervisor’s office and told that one more incident would mean his immediate termination. Finally something shook him up, but not in a good way.

Unbeknownst to my mom, my dad emptied their checking and savings accounts and disappeared. After many frantic calls, it was discovered he had driven to Minnesota (his home state) and was out on a drinking binge with his brothers. Word soon reached my mom that my dad was planning to kill himself near his childhood home.

My mom had no car and no money for my dad had taken both. She had to borrow money from my brother and take a bus to Minnesota, praying all the while she would not be too late. With the help of her sister-in-law, they found the spot my dad had gone to end his life. He was so intoxicated he could barely talk, and he angrily told my mom to leave and let him put an end to his miserable existence.

My dad bounced from one job to another all his life. He could be an excellent salesman but his drinking always got him in trouble and ultimately fired. When he got the job working for the Postal Service in 1957 it was the greatest moment of his life. Finally, at 43 years of age, he had a regular job with a guaranteed weekly check. That is why when he was told “one more incident”, it drove him off the edge of sanity and prompted him to try and end his life.

Amazingly, my mom and sister-in-law talked my dad into putting the weapon down. He crumpled into a pathetic heap and cried in my mom’s arms for nearly 30 minutes. Once sober, he and my mom drove back to Kansas with a secret known only to them, my brother and his sister-in-law. Incredibly, this secret remained in a secure lockbox until my mom shared it with me 38 years later.

It has been said that things like suicidal thoughts run in families. I spent a lot of time with a man back in 2006 whose dad and only brother had both committed suicide. Sure enough, this man killed himself just a few months ago. Interestingly, one of his sons has already tried to commit suicide three times and he is just 24 years old.

With all of my heart I wish my mom would have shared the story of what happened with my dad long before when she did. Perhaps it would have helped me be more aware of a potential fiery dart and thus motivate me to work at keeping my defenses strong. I have come to learn that some secrets should be kept locked up to protect those involved, but there are other secrets (especially family secrets) that need to be brought out in the open so the members of the family can become stronger.

Looking back, I see now how the enemy used a genetic weak point that I didn’t even know existed, to open the door to the ordeal I went through in 1984. Thankfully God interceded and put an end to both the event and the weak point. I pray that we always look past the outward ugliness of what a suicidal person is doing to see WHY they are doing it. Many times a weak link will be found that points back to a genetic flaw that perhaps, like me, the person did not even know existed.

Grey Warner @day2day ·

Thank you for sharing so openly your story Kirk and that of your family. It is hard to share "family secrets" as you don't want to open anyone you love to criticism or misunderstanding...but opening up about something so personal allows others to learn from their experiences. There seems to be such an increase of total LACK of concern, sensitivity, compassion for others. When we need help the most, people seem to be there the least. When we need to share our "ugly" feelings, people judge...and leave one with guilt, shame, and pain. We are like the church "officials" of the day, passing by and judging the beaten down man on the road...unwilling to get our hands dirty...deeming him unworthy of our time or effort. It is the good Samaritans that stop and take interest in others wellfare that make such a huge impact. I don't think anyone can be faulted for someone else taking their own life..we can't control what someone else does or plans to do...but we can try to help or understand we can TALK about it and bring it out into the light in order to provide a chance to heal. I appreciate your openness...looking forward to the rest of the blog. :butterfly:

Phillip Jones @asifbyfire ·

We often times don't grasp how total the curse of Genesis three was on humanity and the created order. All the ills of mankind have their source in the fall. Genetically, morally, mentally and emotionally. It is an answer to the curse of the father being visited on the sons to the third and fourth generation of those that hate God. All of us do pass on our problems and yes, sin, to our children whether we know it or not. Thank God, we have a way to escape the curse of Genesis three in Jesus Christ. It is not well known but a great many famous Christians suffered from severe depression for a good deal of their lives, Martin Luther to name one.

Kenneth Figurelli @bibleguy64 ·

Your mother might have done you a favor by not telling you. Just as spousal abuse can be observed and later imitated by children when they are adults, maybe the same is true of suicide. I am not minimizing the possible genetic link, but if you had known about your father's experience, thhat may have influenced you in a negative way. I do not back these statements up with any expertise, they are just some thoughts that might have some truth. - bibleguy

K Reynolds @kreynolds ·

[quote]I have come to learn that some secrets should be kept locked up to protect those involved, but there are other secrets (especially family secrets) that need to be brought out in the open so the members of the family can become stronger.[/quote]

I agree. I have seen some sad situations take place because people circled the wagons and a lot of heartache could have been avoided if that had not happened.

There does seem to be a "genetic link" in regards to how we react to various situations. One can argue that this is strictly environmental however, in studies of twins and siblings that were separated from their families at birth, we know that heredity plays a much greater role in behavior than one might think.

At the same time, this does not mean the "link" cannot be broken. If we know there is a genetic "weakness" to do something destructive to themselves, we can take steps to force ourselves to go in a different direction. The person who knows that alcoholism runs in their family is wise to consider they may have inherited that same tendency and therefore take steps to simply not indulge in alcohol. The person who recognizes that they might have a tendency to take their own life when life starts to fall apart around them, would be wise to learn strategies NOW rather than later to combat stress as well as trying to form a network of people who can help and support them when they are struggling with issues. The person who comes from an abusive environment can do the same so that they in turn do not become an abuser. We can break "the pattern" of negative behavior but break is a verb and it requires action on our part. It is far easier to break these weaknesses toward a negative behavior BEFORE they become entrenched in our lives. It is not impossible to do so later but it is easier to do so earlier rather than later.


K :princess:

Kirk M @blessings2you ·

Although the topic of "sin to the third and fourth generations" is legitimate, I would prefer it not be discussed in this blog. Perhaps I can address this in a blog after I am done writing this series.

Thank you

Sandy Brooks @poodlelady ·

I had never thought about suicide having a genetic link.

Thank you for sharing this blog.


Do not include honorifics.

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